Why 'Jerusalem' is becoming the Harry Potter of the cookbook world

Jerusalem cover

There are thousands, of cookbooks published every year. Many are never noticed, some become popular with a select group, and some actually make the best-seller list for awhile. But every now and then, one incites feverish excitement. According to The New York Times article, 'Jerusalem' Has All the Right Ingredients Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's recent cookbook Jerusalem is reaching those exalted heights.

First, the numbers of copies sold are extraordinary, "Jerusalem, published in the United States last October by Ten Speed Press, already has 200,000 copies in print, with an additional 210,000 copies in print in Britain. More than 3,000 cookbooks are published each year, according to Bowker, the publishing industry's tracking authority; very few of them sell more than 35,000 copies, and those that do are usually driven by authors who are chefs, celebrities or both."

Second, it's becoming a social craze, "Cooks have been throwing all-Jerusalem potlucks, passing around tips on where to buy fresh tahini in Minneapolis or in Manchester, England, and using the book as a spark to ignite new cookbook clubs - monthly gatherings of cooks, who may know each other only online, that are catching on in many cities."

The article, which is well worth reading for all of us who enjoy cookbooks, proceeds to list and discuss in detail a number of reasons for the book's success, including timeliness, technology, the authors adapting recipes to Western sensitivities, and even the soft feel of its cover.

Apparently, however, there is one area where the book lacks popularity - Israel, itself. According to one theory, " 'I think that Israelis don't like it when someone who left years ago is in a position to define what is Israel.'" The exception seems to be expats who live there and love it.

We know our members love the book - it's listed on over 1,000 shelves of EYB members - so you might want to check the 150 or so notes that members have posted about the recipes and add your own. As the book's success proves, social media and technology can create a great way to enjoy a book even more.


  • amatheson  on  8/2/2013 at 1:52 AM

    Love, love, love this book! Got some Amazon vouchers for my birthday and checked out EYB's blogs for popular and new books. Bought this and Plenty (and a couple of others) and have enjoyed using them. Love Jerusalem!

  • Jane  on  8/2/2013 at 8:53 AM

    I'm not at all surprised at how popular this book is. One of my favorite cookbooks ever and I have recommended it to so many people.

  • sir_ken_g  on  8/8/2013 at 11:03 AM

    I count at least 6 Middle Eastern and Jewish cook books - some going way back - don't need another. They do wonderful things with spices.

  • Jacqui  on  8/28/2013 at 11:53 PM

    I happen to adore this cookbook so much that I wanted to buy a copy for my mother-in-law in israel. I think you'll find the reason it's not selling well in Israel is that the book, as far as I can tell, has not been translated to Hebrew! If anyone can provide information about a Hebrew copy I'd be very grateful!

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